“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that employees on former President Trump’s 2016 campaign had to sign is unenforceable.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe, a George W. Bush appointee, found that the language of the far-reaching contract was so vague that it was invalid under New York contract law, Politico reports.
“The vagueness and breadth of the provision is such that a Campaign employee would have no way of what may be disclosed, and, accordingly, Campaign employees are not free to speak about anything concerning the Campaign,” Gardephe wrote in his decision. “The non-disclosure provision is thus much broader than what the Campaign asserts is necessary to protect its legitimate interests, and, therefore, is not reasonable.”
Gardephe also found fault in the non-disparagement clause of the agreement, Politico reports, writing that the contract showed the Trump campaign did not operate “in good faith.”
“The evidence before the Court instead demonstrates that the Campaign has repeatedly sought to enforce the non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions to suppress speech that it finds detrimental to its interests,” Gardephe added.
The outlet notes that the Trump campaign had asked Gardephe to edit the provisions in the contract if he found them unenforceable, but the judge declined to do so.
The Hill has reached out to Trump’s office for comment on the ruling.
The ruling by Gardephe was issued in a case brought by Jessica Denson, a Hispanic outreach director on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Denson is accusing the campaign of sex discrimination, Politico reports.
“I’m overjoyed,” Denson told Politico, regarding Gardephe’s ruling. “This president … former president spent all four years aspiring to autocracy while claiming that he was champion of freedom and free speech. … There’s many people out there who have seen cases like mine and were terrified to speak out.”
However, a representative for Trump disagreed with the ruling.
“We believe the court reached the wrong decision and President Trump’s lawyers are examining all potential appeals,” an unnamed aide to Trump told Politico.
Calls for authenticity at work ask for passionate people with diverse, fresh perspectives who challenge old ways of thinking. But too often workplace culture fails to support the authenticity of professionals of color and other underrepresented groups, leading instead to backlash and fewer opportunities. Writer Jodi-Ann Burey outlines steps toward exposing privilege and achieving true equity on the job — and implores those in leadership positions to accept responsibility for change.
He noted that marijuana arrests have actually risen in recent years in more than a dozen states.
Legal pot for white sellers, a black market for people of color
As legalization moves forward, meanwhile, another fault line has developed.
In states where marijuana sales have gone legit, people of color who were once part of the industry are often excluded.
“It has been really bumpy,” said Andrew Freedman who was Colorado’s pot czar for three years before working as a consultant for other states looking at legalization.
Freedman works now with a group attempting to decriminalize pot at the federal level. He said the barriers to entry for people of color in the legal marijuana business are daunting.
“First of all, a lot of people want into this industry so there’s a lot of competition,” he said. “Second, it’s an expensive industry because there are so many regulations and it’s simply expensive to operate.”
These hurdles have forced many people of color to continue buying illegally. As a consequence, a black market for marijuana winds up operating side-by-side with the legal industry.
Rosalie Liccardo Pacula is an economist at the University of Southern California who studies drug policy and marijuana legalization.
She told NPR many Black and brown dealers around the U.S. still sell their products outside the regulated pot market. In some cases, the threat of arrest and prosecution has grown.
“The legal market companies didn’t like the fact that the black market is still around,” Pacula said. “So targeted enforcement began happening against the same minorities.”
A more inclusive pot industry in NY?
Supporters say New York’s legalization measure was written specifically to avoid this kind of inequity.
“I think it’s just a real game-changer and sets a new model for what legalization should look like in this country,” said Melissa Moore who heads the New York chapter of a group called the Drug Policy Alliance.
She points out New York’s marijuana legalization measure provides investment capital to help people of color transition into the legal pot business. It’s a strategy elected officials in other states such as New Jersey, Illinois and Virginia have said they’re trying to take, too, sometimes with varying results.
In New York, people can also apply for ‘social equity’ dispensary licenses, reserved for those who can show their business would benefit people and communities hurt by past drug policies.
Moore said state lawmakers spent time “really trying to anticipate what have been some of the problems elsewhere that we can get ahead of here.”
Calls for forests to be high on Cop26 agenda after loss of 42,000 sq km of tree cover in key tropical regions
The rate at which the world’s forests are being destroyed increased sharply last year, with at least 42,000 sq km of tree cover lost in key tropical regions.
According to data from the University of Maryland and the online monitoring platform Global Forest Watch, the loss was well above the average for the last 20 years, with 2020 the third worst year for forest destruction since 2002 when comparable monitoring began.
The losses were particularly severe in humid tropical primary forests, such as the Amazon, the Congo and south-east Asia. These forests are vital as carbon sinks in the regulating the global climate, as well as for their irreplaceable ecosystems. Losses from this type of forest alone amounted to 4.2m hectares (10.4m acres), equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of more than 575m cars, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI), which compiled the report.
Altogether, 12.2m hectares of tree cover were lost in the tropics in 2020, an increase of 12% on 2019.
Brazil’s forested areas fared the worst, with 1.7m hectares destroyed, an increase of about a quarter on the previous year. Fires swept through the Amazon at a greater rate than in the previous year, despite the government imposing a ban on the use of fires to clear trees and deploying soldiers to curb the practice. The government of Jair Bolsonaro has presided over a massive increase in deforestation, after a long period of improvements in reducing the destruction.
Frances Seymour, a distinguished senior fellow at WRI, said: “Brazil had achieved a huge reduction in deforestation, but we are now seeing the unravelling of that success, and it is heartbreaking.”
While the Amazon region has grabbed attention, scientists are also increasingly concerned about Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s biggest tropical wetland. About a third is estimated to have been hit by fires last year, with devastating effects on biodiversity. Most of the fires were started by people to manage land for agriculture, but the region has also had its worst droughts in more than 40 years, and many fires continued to burn out of control. The areas affected by these unprecedented fires will take decades to recover.
The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns around the world did not have a clear impact on forest loss patterns, according to Rod Taylor, the global director of the forests programme at WRI. “The data does not show a systematic shift,” he said.
However, there has been anecdotal evidence of people forced to return to rural areas by lockdowns and the worsening economic situation in cities, and that this could have greater impact in future, he said.
Seymour said countries that faced high levels of debt owing to the economic fallout from the pandemic could be tempted to give in to commercial interests to exploit their forests unsustainably, or could be forced to reduce resources for forest protection.
“Unless we offer alternatives, it is likely that governments will try to recover on the back of forest loss, [particularly] governments facing high levels of debt,” she said. “The longer we wait to tackle deforestation, the more likely it is that these carbon sinks will go up in smoke.”
Seymour pointed to some success stories in tackling deforestation as proof that strong policies accompanied by the needed finance and government enforcement could reduce the rate of forest loss.
Deforestation is decreasing in Indonesia, which has dropped out of the WRI’s list of top three countries for primary forest loss for the first time. Tree loss in Indonesia in 2020 fell for the fourth year in a row, down from a peak in 2016 after devastating forest and peat fires led the government to place a moratorium on the cutting down of primary forest and converting peatland to agriculture while restricting licensing for palm oil plantations.
Malaysia, which has lost about a third of its primary forest since the 1970s, has also recently succeeded in reducing deforestation, with tougher laws on illegal logging.
Wealthier countries are not immune to forest loss. In Germany there was a threefold increase in forest loss in 2020 compared with 2018. The increase was largely due to damage from bark beetles feasting on trees made vulnerable by the hot and dry weather brought by global heating. Australia had a ninefold increase in tree cover loss over the past two years, largely owing to extreme weather and forest fires.
Climate breakdown is also making forest loss worse, with humid forests drying out, causing trees to die off and fires to burn for longer, in a vicious cycle.
On Wednesday, the UK, which will host the vital UN Cop26 talks this November, is holding a conference on climate and development at which wealthy nations will be asked to come up with plans to help the most vulnerable countries cut emissions and cope with the effects of climate breakdown. Campaigners hope to raise the issue of forest funding there.
“Forests need to be on the agenda for Cop26,” said Seymour. “The world’s forests are still an enormous carbon sink, and we need to keep that carbon sequestered to avert catastrophic climate change.”
Alok Sharma, the president of Cop26, said wealthy countries must step up to help poor nations bearing the brunt of climate breakdown: “The people who have done the least to cause the climate crisis are suffering the most. This is a searing injustice. And so developed countries have a particular responsibility to support the response of communities which are most vulnerable to climate change. We are running out of time.”
More gadgets are being designed for the bedroom. Experts say they won’t necessarily help you get more restful sleep, though some detect signs of sleep apnea.
I’ve been sleeping with my gadgets—five of them.
These sensors on my nightstand, under my mattress and on my wrists automatically capture all sorts of information overnight. I’m swimming in a sea of data—time in bed, time asleep, time it took to fall asleep, number of disturbances, percentage in light and deep sleep, snoring instances, average heart rate, average breaths a minute. The goal of all this: fix my groggy mornings.
The pandemic has left me feeling perpetually in sleep debt and, apparently, I’m not alone. Can any of these smart bracelets, watches, pads or bedside smart displays help me wake up feeling more rested and refreshed?
Sleep tracking has long been offered on wearable devices such as Fitbit but, recently, more gadget makers are entering the bedroom. Last September, theAppleAAPL -1.23% Watch got a sleep-tracking app with WatchOS 7. Google’s recently announced next-generation Nest Hub, which starts shipping Tuesday, has a radar sensor designed to measure nighttime movements and even breathing patterns.
The trackers are drawing attention to an often overlooked, yet vital aspect of our health, which sleep experts told me is a good thing. But the doctors and psychiatrists I spoke to also cast doubt on the devices’ ability to capture certain data, such as sleep stages, accurately, and said people can become easily overwhelmed by the data deluge—leading to more sleep-blocking stress.
Most sleep-tracking devices capture the basics: when you fall asleep, when you wake up and how much time between those events you spent snoozing. That sleep duration data is pretty comparable to research-grade devices, says Aric Prather, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who treats insomnia. Beyond that, every device has its own method and perspective on sleep tracking, including the five devices I tested.
The Apple Watch ($199 and up) takes a minimalist approach. The emphasis is on setting your time-asleep goal and sleep schedule, then holding you to it. The iPhone’s Health app, which displays average sleep over time, doesn’t provide analysis about the quality or length of your sleep. It will, however, nudge you when it’s time to wind down for bed.
Google’s Nest Hub ($100) is a smart display that can detect motion and breathing. There’s no camera—just an onboard radar sensor to capture your time asleep, restless periods, snoring disturbances and other data. The Nest Hub can track one person’s sleep, which means if you have a co-sleeper, they’ll need their own. And if it picks up snoring, it might not know that it’s your partner (as it is in my case), not you, who is doing it.
Withings Sleep Mat ($80) is an under-mattress pad that can sense tosses and turns, as well as breathing disturbances, such as snoring or prolonged pauses. It matches the sound of snoring with your respiratory patterns, so it can distinguish your snoring from your partner’s. Every morning, the Health Mate companion app assigns you a sleep score, based on how well it thinks you slept. You can also dive into other metrics, including how long you spent in deep and light sleep phases.
While all of Fitbit’s devices can track sleep, I tried the Sense smartwatch ($280). The app shows sleep-phase data and scores your sleep, like the Withings mat. A $10-a-month Premium subscription unlocks more detailed sleep score insights. For example, how your average nighttime heart rate factors into the grade.
Whoop ($18 a month and up) is a bracelet, included in the subscription price, with an optical heart-rate sensor and accelerometer. The app uses resting heart rate and heart-rate variability (the variation in time between heartbeats) captured during sleep to determine how hard you should train each day to prevent injury and illness.
There are numerous other trackers, including the NBA-endorsed Oura ring, which my fellow tech columnist Joanna tested for its ability to potentially predict Covid-19. But, frankly, there’s only enough data I could handle this week. Plus, there is such a thing as sleep-data overload.
The formal medical term is orthosomnia. “Basically, it’s insomnia from sleep-tracking devices,” said Dr. Prather.
Susheel Patil, a clinical doctor with the Johns Hopkins Pulmonary Sleep Medicine Program, had a patient with insomnia symptoms cure his sleeplessness by removing the Fitbit he was wearing every night. “It can be so much data, and we don’t know what to do with it. Unplugging can be more helpful,” Dr. Patil said.
Plus, seemingly “bad” results might not be meaningful. If your tracker says your sleep is fragmented, but you feel fine, it’s nothing to worry about, he added.
Another concern is the devices’ accuracy. “The gold standard is the polysomnogram with an EEG signature, and everything else is an estimate,” said Kelly Baron, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Utah. An electroencephalogram (aka EEG) test, typically conducted in a lab, looks at electrical activity in your brain using nodes attached to your scalp.
I wanted to see how my data might compare with a polysomnogram test, so I sent Dr. Baron one night’s worth of my data captured by different devices. Looking at the sleep-phase data from Whoop and Fitbit, she said, “The staging data doesn’t look much like the stages we would see in a sleep study.” (The Apple Watch and Google’s Nest Hub don’t attempt to discern the different phases, and I hadn’t yet begun testing the Withings Mat, which does display sleep-cycle duration.) Dr. Baron pointed to the app’s record of a long period of REM—aka rapid eye movement—toward the end of sleep, and the small amount of time in deep sleep as unusual, even for a particularly terrible night of sleep.
Fitbit’s lead sleep scientist, Conor Heneghan, said its devices, which use heart rate to track sleep stages, adhere to clinical definitions of sleep as defined by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and were validated in labs against sleep studies. Still, he said, wearing a Fitbit “isn’t as good as going to a sleep lab, but it’s useful for tracking sleep in the real world, and tracking trends over time.” Dr. Heneghan added that wearing the wrist-based device too loose at night will decrease signal quality.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Do you use an app or device to track your sleep? Which one, and why? Join the conversation below.
Whoop’s vice president of data science and research, Emily Capodilupo, said sleep-stage duration is presented to users who may be interested in the data, but it doesn’t factor into the calculation of the recovery score. She pointed to a peer-reviewed study, completed at the University of Arizona and funded by Whoop, that concluded Whoop’s sleep-staging analytics were comparable to results from a polysomnography test.
Of more indisputable value is trackers’ ability to spot signs of sleep apnea, “which is a huge drain on the medical system,” said Dr. Prather. Apnea affects a person’s ability to breathe during the night, and can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and other serious health issues. Snoring and fragmented sleep are two symptoms that can show up in sleep-tracker data.
Both the Withings Mat and Google Nest Hub detect snoring and Fitbit’s CEO said that apnea detection is coming to his wearables. The Google Nest Hub revealed how much my husband’s snoring matched up with my restless periods. (I’ve worn ear plugs since.)
I found Whoop to be the most interesting, because the app isn’t just focused on sleep. It uses my last night’s sleep to make recommendations for the day ahead: whether I should go on a more strenuous bike ride or a leisurely walk through the park. But it’s overkill for people who aren’t interested in optimizing for athletic performance.
The biggest benefit of these trackers generally is that I’m now prioritizing my sleep, instead of merely thinking of it as the bookend to my day. And honestly, you don’t need trackers to do the same, and follow the two key tenets of the sleep experts I talked to:
Set consistent bed and wake times—even on the weekends.
Get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
“Most clinicians, we’re a little bit guarded about the data,” said Dr. Patil. “But it at least gives people the opportunity to think about sleep.”